The Female Emigration Society – Article 7

This benevolent society came about in response to the plight of the needlewomen of London and was supported by Caroline Chisholm, Sidney Herbert and Lord Ashley amongst others.

We have transcribed eight corresponding articles that were published in The Morning Chronicle in connection with the “Labour and the Poor” letters which you can find below. Each article has links to the other articles at the top and bottom of the page.

The Morning Chronicle, Thursday, October 24, 1850.


Several letters, addressed to the Right Hon. Sidney Herbert, have been recently received at the office of the Female Emigration Fund, in reply to communications made to the colonies soon after the institution had commenced its operations. The accounts from the Cape colony are particularly encouraging; and the committee have decided on the immediate selection of fifty young women for emigration thither; and it is intended that they shall be despatched on or about the 15th of next month.

Information has also been received of the arrival at Toronto, under the care of Mr. A’Court, of those emigrants who were sent out to Canada in the Elspeth, and, further, that they had all obtained places within a week.

Intelligence arrived yesterday from Port Phillip, stating that the Culloden, the first ship despatched to that quarter, was hourly expected, and that the colonists were ready and anxious to receive her emigrants.

A most liberal offer has been made to the committee by Mr. W. B. Gardner, of Manchester, who is about to proceed from Liverpool to Launceston, Van Diemen’s Land, with his family and some friends, in a vessel chartered by himself, and who proposes to take out, at his own entire charge and expense, twelve young women “as a donation to the colony.” The committee, after due consideration, have thankfully accepted this offer. Twelve young women have been selected, who are at present in the Home, and suitable arrangements are being made on board the ship for their reception and accommodation. The vessel is expected to leave Liverpool about the 26th or 28th of the present month.

Governor Sir Harry Smith and Dr. Gray, the Bishop of Cape Town, have manifested extreme interest in the operations of the committee. The Bishop writes as follows, under date April 25:⁠—

“The class of persons in whom you are interested is one which is much needed in this colony. I have no hesitation in saying that a very large number of females of good character, who would take the situations of household servants, at wages at least equal to what you give in England, would in a very few weeks be absorbed. We shall be quite prepared to employ as many as you are likely to be able to send us, and I am sure that if they come as you propose, not more than thirty at a time, with characters (which should be sent with them, and addressed to me), they will all be engaged within a day or two of their arrival. The greater number of them should, I think, be sent to Cape Town. Some might be forwarded to Algoa Bay, and a few to Mossel Bay. At each of these places Government make arrangements for the support of their own emigrants until engaged, and I doubt not but that they will be willing to afford every assistance to yours. I have already appointed the Rev. W. A. Newman, of Cape Town, chaplain to the emigrants, and he has undertaken to board each emigrant ship upon its arrival.”

Mr. Davidson, the Bishop’s Registrar, writes:⁠—

“The practice with regard to Government emigrants is to place them first in the Cape Town depôt; afterwards, as many as are not engaged from thence are forwarded, at the Government expense, to Port Elizabeth; and in the same way the residue, not engaged there, are sent inland to Graham’s Town, where they have the depôt, as a home, for a short period, to enable them to procure work or places. At these several depôts they are supplied with rations. I believe also, whenever a sufficient number of emigrants are applied for, and actually engaged to any particular country district while at the seaport depôt, the Government will expend not exceeding the same amount in forwarding them by waggon, to or towards their destination, as it would have expended in forwarding them by sea to the next depôt. All the Government emigrants come at first to Cape Town, but in the case of those you may send, I apprehend there would be no such necessity, and that they would be equally received at Port Elizabeth in case you should find convenient vessels proceeding there. The chance of employment, for a comparatively small number, would be nearly if not quite as good as at Cape Town.

“Mr. Newman, the senior clergyman of Cape Town, who has been appointed chaplain to the emigrants, will be anxious to aid in every way in promoting the objects of your committee, and in the meantime, till a committee may be formed here as suggested by the Bishop, will be happy to make every practicable arrangement for ascertaining, through our own clergy in each place, what servants, &c., are wanted by respectable and kind masters, so that, if possible, engagements may be offered to the emigrants of your society on their arrival, and comfortable homes secured for them, or at least that they may learn where there are probable openings for them. I need hardly say I offer my hearty assistance to him and to your committee in such arrangements, so far as I can be of any use.”

The communications from New South Wales are of an equally cheering character, as will be seen by the subjoined extracts. Dr. Broughton, the Bishop of Sydney, writes, on the 6th of May⁠—

“The following observations are founded upon data supplied by an analytical view of the census of New South Wales for 1846, the last which has been taken under legislative sanction. The total population of New South Wales, including Port Phillip and the crews of colonial vessels, was then shown to be (in round numbers) 189,000; viz., males 114,000, females 75,000. The proportion of females born in the colony was 14 per cent. beyond that of males. The arrival of female emigrants during the year 1849 has exceeded that of males by nearly 18 per cent. Supposing such causes to have been in operation during 1847, 8, 9 (since the census was made up), the ratio of the sexes at the present time may be as females 5, males 7, instead of 5—8, as in 1846. Still, therefore, there is an alarming disproportion; and it must be the prayer of every friend of virtue and morality, that this inroad upon the appointment of the Almighty may not be continued. I see every probability that within the limits of the settled counties, several hundreds of women acquainted with household work, if they were of unblemished characters, would readily find engagement in respectable places, where they would be well maintained and attended to until they should dispose of themselves more to their advantage. In the expectation that such may be the result of the benevolent undertaking which you inform me you are engaged in, I will mention briefly the course which to me seems most advisable, and will be, I trust, satisfactory to the committee on behalf of these objects of your bounty. I will enter into immediate communication with the Government, to provide for the reception of all members of the Church of England by the chaplain for immigrants; that from him they may receive the instruction, advice, and encouragement which, as strangers in the land, they will need, and know how to value. I shall address a circular letter to the clergy, requesting them to inquire and notify to me what desirable employments, and for what description of persons, are obtainable within their several parishes; and my endeavour will be thus to introduce the greatest possible number of the females at once into respectable service. Beyond the boundaries where there are no resident clergyman, I will communicate with persons in whom confidence may be placed, through whom it may be ascertained what need of female servants exists in their particular neighbourhood. In this way it may be in my power to dispose of many; and of every such disposal a record shall be kept, to enable me to tell what becomes of each individual. Upon these and other points connected with their welfare, I shall be happy to write occasionally; and in any other way that you believe may assist a good cause, I hope it is unnecessary to say my poor services will be always at your command.”

The Rev. T. W. Bodenham, the emigrants’ chaplain at Sydney, has made a tender to the committee of his assistance, in the following hearty terms:⁠—

“My duty is to board vessels bringing emigrants immediately on their coming into port, and thenceforward to treat such of them as are either members of the Church of England, or desire to put themselves under my charge, in every respect as parishioners until their final settlement. They are assembled as soon as possible, to have a thanksgiving service for their preservation from the perils of the sea, and their safe arrival in the colony; a sermon is addressed to them appropriate to their circumstances, and from that time until they obtain suitable employment I am constantly going in and out among them, conversing with and giving them every information in my power, aiding them in forming engagements and guarding them against fraud. When they have obtained employment, I at once inform the clergyman of the parish (or district) to which they may remove of their name and residence, and thus transfer them to his kind pastoral care.

“From this sketch of the nature of my duties, you will be enabled to judge in what way I can be useful to yourself and the gentlemen with whom you are associated; and I can but beg that you will not scruple to make use of me to the utmost of your need.

“Of course, to send out these young women under the idea that they will all obtain a living in the colony by needlework would be unreasonable, and end in disappointment; they must take to domestic service, as housemaids, nursemaids, cooks, laundresses, or general servants, in which employments they will obtain at starting (while they are comparatively inefficient) from 10l. to 12l. a year wages, with excellent board and lodging in the family; and when they become practised servants, and can act as parlour-maids, &c., higher wages still. For some years hence, from eight hundred to a thousand per annum of such young women, if arriving at moderate intervals in the colony—say six to eight weeks—will easily obtain employment. I may mention, too, that all kinds of women’s clothing being exceedingly cheap, girls of a saving disposition are enabled to make deposits from their wages in the savings’ bank, while those of a less valuable sort dress from it extravagantly fine. The opportunities here for young women to get married cause a constant change of servants; and this prospect should not be hidden from the parties in whose behalf you have taken so kind an interest.”

The Morning Chronicle, Thursday, October 24, 1850.